Sarah’s Sparkle Story

If someone saved your life, what would you do?

Sarah Brook made a promise to Malawi age 18 that she would one day return to the country that saved her and make a difference. Faced with continual challenges of corruption, theft and bad health, learn how one girl turned her dream of helping just one child, into an organisation that now helps thousands of orphans and vulnerable children.

At 18 years old after leaving Felsted School, Sarah decided to take a gap year and travel the world. Her first stop was Malawi, to volunteer at an orphanage with a friend. After spending six weeks living with a local girl, Sarah became desperately unwell and was rushed to Zomba Central Hospital, suffering with a severe pain in her stomach.

In 2012, age 22, Sarah worked with the local community to build Sparkle Malawi.

On arriving at the hospital there was a huge queue of people who had travelled for miles to reach the nearest hospital. When they saw Sarah they said she could go to the front and be seen by the one and only Doctor. He explained to Sarah’s friend that there was a blockage in her bowel and she would need surgery immediately. With a high rate of HIV at the hospital and limited sterile equipment, the only other choice Sarah had was to go to a private hospital an hour and a half away but risk dying on route.

The friend made this choice and Sarah reached the hospital in Blantyre where she was treated and had a small operation. After spending a couple of weeks recovering, Sarah’s friend came to visit and explained that at the local hospital, she was being treated by the Doctor for well over an hour and some of the people in the queue, some of whom were children, who had allowed her to be seen first, may have died while waiting.

It was this moment that changed Sarah’s life forever and she made a promise to herself that she would return to Malawi and make a difference to at least one child’s life.

Sarah was determined to make a difference to one child’s life and Sparkle Malawi was built to give children a chance of a brighter future.

During her years at the University of Exeter, Sarah did a number of different fundraising events and sporting challenges and in her last summer as a student, travelled to Sogoja Village, near Zomba and worked alongside of Malawian builders to construct a small nursery school.

In 2014, Sarah handed this over to the community and walked away with her head held high, knowing she had made a small difference.

Returning a year later to surprise the children was met with heartbreak for Sarah who saw that the school was no longer operating. All the toys had been stolen and even some of the iron sheets from the roof had been removed.

In 2015, Sarah gave up her tax-free PR job in Dubai to move to Malawi full-time to grow the organisation and be with the children.

Sarah was told by friends and family that ‘This Is Africa’ and corruption is everywhere and she should just walk away. But Sarah had other ideas. For her, this was a situation where a white inexperienced volunteer had gone into a village and built something that people hadn’t even asked for. Why do children deserve to suffer as a consequence? Determined to prove others wrong, Sarah went and volunteered at 13 organisations worldwide to learn best practices in the charity sector.

After carrying out a needs assessment she realised she would need to send regular money over to Sparkle to cover staff wages and food bills. A job opportunity came available in Dubai, which meant Sarah would be able to send over some of her wages from her tax-free salary to cover the costs. She officially registered The Sparkle Foundation as a UK charity in 2015.

Working in a PR agency, Sarah moved her way up the company and after two years decided that her heart was still in Malawi and she wanted to help more children. She moved over to Sparkle full time as a volunteer and started growing the organisation on the ground.

Since Sarah started Sparkle in 2012, more than 800 children have been educated.

Unfortunately, after being struck with bad health, typhoid, malaria and dengue fever, Sarah had to return to the UK for emergency treatment. Once she had recovered she headed back and forth to Malawi and as of September 2016 was able to start taking a small salary from the charity. Sarah started to work with a number of schools and corporate partners and in 2017 was awarded Humanitarian of the Year for the Middle East 2017. This award raised Sarah’s profile worldwide and a number of endorsements and speaking engagements, including a Ted-X talk, followed.

International Directors stepped into her role on the ground in Malawi to mentor the young local staff, while Sarah spread the Sparkle around the world, raising funds for the organisation and encouraging people to ‘Make A Difference’.

Sadly, Sarah suffered from a traumatic brain injury in June 2017 after fainting in Malawi and ended up being airlifted to South Africa in a coma. After a year-long miraculous recovery, Sarah continues to dedicate her life to Sparkle and is determined to see as many children be given the same access to health care and education that she has been so fortunate enough to receive.

She is currently in the process of writing a book and has set up her own company SEB Consultancy for speaking engagements, leadership and team building workshops, CSR and PR services.

For more information about Sarah or to book her for a speaking event please contact admin@sparklemalawi.org

watch her in action

Testimonials